Former Vice President of India Hamid Ansari has been in the eye of a political storm ever since the BJP accused him of hobnobbing with a pro-ISI journalist from Pakistan.
On Wednesday, the party accused Ansari of inviting Pakistani journalist Nusrat who has claimed to have spied for the ISI, to India. Ansari, however, has dismissed the allegations as a "litany of falsehood" and said he never met or invited him.
Who is Pakistani journalist Nusrat Mirza?
Nusrat Mirza is a journalist from Pakistan who has recently claimed that former Vice President Hamid Ansari invited him to India during the UPA government. Mirza claimed to have gathered crucial information about the Indian administration during the trip which he then passed on to the ISI.
Clips of Mirza's interview in Pakistan have been doing the rounds on social media for the last few days in which he stated that he attended a seminar on terrorism in India in which Ansari spoke. Mirza also claimed to have given secret and classified information to the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
When did Mirza come to India?
Mirza has claimed that between 2005 and 2011, he visited India several times and that he passed on information he collected here to ISI. Mirza had reportedly visited India during the International Conference of Jurists on International Terrorism and Human Rights held on December 11, 2010 as well when Congress' Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister under the Sonia Gandhi-led UPA coalition government. The claims were made in an interview that aired on a YouTube channel in Pakistan.
What did the BJP say?
Other allegations of security breaches by Ansari have also been raised by the party, which has demanded an explanation regarding Mirza's claims from Ansari as well as the Congress which headed the UPA government. BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia cited purported claims of the Pakistani journalist, Nusrat Mirza, to allege that Ansari shared many "sensitive and highly classified" information with him. Bhatia also cited comments of a former operative of RAW, India's external spy agency, to allege that Ansari had harmed the country's interests when he was its envoy to Iran.
Bhatia also slammed the Congress, which was in power between 2004-14, and asked its leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to come clean on the allegations. He claimed that Congress can go to any extent in its "petty and ugly politics and compromise" national interest.
What Hamid Ansari said on Mirza's claims
Hamid Ansari served as the vice president of India between 2007-17 and before that had served as India's envoy to several countries including Iran. He has rejected charges made by Bhatia and also said that his work as ambassador to Iran was at all times within the knowledge of the government of the day.
Rebutting the BJP's claim of inviting Mirza, Ansari said it is a known fact that invitations to foreign dignitaries by the Vice-President of India are on the advice of the government generally through the Ministry of External Affairs.
Hitting back, the Congress strongly condemned the "insinuations and innuendos" by the BJP against party president Sonia Gandhi and the former vice president, saying it amounts to "character assassination of the worst form". It said that facts regarding the International Conference of Jurists on International Terrorism and Human Rights held on December 11, 2010 in New Delhi are already in the public domain and accused the ruling party of spreading lies.
"The levels that the prime minister and his party colleagues will stoop to debase public debate and spread their patented brand of lies is staggering. It reflects sickness of mind and lack of any form of integrity whatsoever," Ramesh alleged.
Congress also hit back at BJP's statements with party general secretary Jairam Ramesh saying in a statement that the levels that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party colleagues will stoop to debase public debate is staggering. "It reflects sickness of mind and lack of any form of integrity whatsoever," Ramesh said.
Gurdeep Singh Sappal, who had served as Ansari's officer on special duty, also rejected the allegations, saying Mirza has not said that Ansari had invited him and the Pakistani journalist just happened to be at the seminar where the then Vice President gave a speech on terrorism.
(With inputs from PTI)